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Meal Planning Made Simple: Making Recipe Labels & Freezing Meal Ready Meat

March 20, 2014

I promised to share with y'all any tips and tricks I find useful in staying organized overall.  Especially anything that helps our home lives run smoother.  Meal time is always one of those events that sneaks up on me.  Daily.  I've promised myself meal plans full of good food.  I've been given solo trips to the grocery store on the weekend to shop in peace.  Yet my execution still fails most of the time. 


I recently attended a frozen meals workshop that really gave me a new strategy for meal prep.  I was given a long list of meats to purchase ahead of time and I felt a bit like I was on a lengthy scavenger hunt.  But in the end I had twenty freezer bags full of meat.  Three hours and two glasses of wine later I had a freezer full of marinating meat prepped and ready for meals.  I'm not certain I would bother with paying for another workshop but I'm glad I attended and learned how simple my dinner prep can become by freezing meal-ready meats ahead of time.

As part of our workshop, we were given the recipes and provided with labels to place on the outside of the bags.  The labels listed the name of the meal and the directions for cooking and turning it into a meal.  So really, just the meat was frozen.  Special note, these are not crock-pot meals but could easily be adapted for that method.


Before this simple labeling step, I would buy extra chicken and ground beef to keep in the freezer but it usually sat untouched for awhile.  I'd be clueless come 4:00 as to what to "turn the chicken into".  Now I do the dirty work ahead of time.  This would be a super fast and effective system to do just once or twice a month.  Something about having is already marinated makes all the difference for me.  I also cleaned and cut the chicken and mushed up the ground beef and turkey.  Everything came out of it's original packaging.

Someone on instagram asked if I bagged my veggies along with my meat and the answer is no.  I do keep a lot of frozen vegetables on hand all the time like broccoli, peas, and green beans so there isn't really a need to mix them ahead of time with the meat.  

As for execution, I pull the bag out of the freezer at night and pop into the fridge.  So far they've been defrosted in time to cook at dinner time.  If I don't have all the ingredients to make the specific meal I've pulled because my day runs out of time for a grocery run or at the last minute we're just not in the mood I can just adjust things.  For instance, Italian Chicken breasts that are supposed to be used for Chicken Parm, can easily be grilled up and topped over a salad instead.  So I still have day-of flexibility.


What are some helpful things that you do with frozen meat or frozen meal prep?  I'd love to hear more ideas for making meal time simple.  I think this is something we all struggle with, no matter our season of life.


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12 comments:

  1. Great idea! I love having cooked ground beef on hand, too. I tried out something I read (on a blog!) and cooked 5 pounds of ground beef at one time, in the crock pot! Then I just broke it up, drained it well on paper towels and then froze in individual bags. I weighed each bag on my little kitchen scale to make sure they were even.

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    1. What a great idea! I didn't cook any of these meets ahead of time. With the ground beef I placed it in it's designated bag and mushed it up from the outside with taco seasoning. Cooking ahead of time sounds like a great idea too.

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  2. I have been pretty good about pulling the meat out of the freezer in the morning....need to do that now actually! And I do like that is a labelled, chopped and ready to go. And the meals have been pretty tasty. I really like the oils and seasonings because they are so healthy!

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  3. I am a working mom of 2 (7yr and 5yr) and meal planning is very important to me as a time saver in the evenings. We normally don't eat out during the week if we can help it. We have a large freezer that is filled with meat. We buy a 1/4 cow every 6months and my husband is a deer hunter so we have that as well and I buy large pkg of chicken from costco. What I do is, on Sunday I look through our pantry and plan some meals around what we already have (meat and pantry items) I also look at our calendar to see what is going on that week and plan each meal accordingly (ex. ball practice = quick easy meal). Then I plan out 5meals for that week and shop for any extra items and our weekly staples. I think it makes it easier to shop this way and I can still change it up if I need to. I tried monthly planning once but I didn't like that it felt overwhelming!!

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  4. That's a really great idea to marinate the meat before freezing it. I do meal plan before grocery shopping and pretty much stick to our weekly menu after that, but I always forget to marinate meat during the day and then we end up having plain chicken or steak at night (not my husband's favorite thing)!

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  5. I have to say I follow a lot of blogs and enjoy them all but yours really does give me awesome tips on how to manage being a SAHM of two! Your meal planning tips have really really helped me thank you!

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  6. This is so genius!! Thanks Julia!!!

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  7. I love the idea of having meals ready and waiting in the freezer. Plus I love the idea of taking froze meals to family when someone is sick or has a new baby.

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  8. I love this idea, especially if there was an easy way to adapt it for vegetarians. With new baby coming soon I'd love to stock the freezer! It seems I always freeze soup or pasta, but I wonder if I missing out on some easy veggie prep (especially for ethnic food which always seems like an indulgence, even if we make it at home).

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  9. what a great idea. I love it....and you get a delicious real meal for dinner with less hassle and stress. I think the workshop was worth it.

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  10. This is a great idea! One question - did you allow the meat to marinate in the fridge for a little while before placing it in the freezer? Or perhaps the marinade has enough time to do its magic while the meat is defrosting before cooking.

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  11. We freeze meats often, but rarely prep or marinate before freezing..I'll have to try that! My biggest issue, is half the time I forget to pull the meat out to thaw!

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